Hacer Compras

People drive their grocery carts the same way they drive their cars in the parking lot

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: August 1, 2004

Hacer Compras

I don?t know if it's a man thing, but every time we go grocery shopping, I?m the one who wants to drive the shopping cart.

This might be a control issue for us guys. We also always have to drive or mentor the TV remote. Traditionally, I always choose the most damaged cart with complicated issues: a challenged one with a wobbly wheel, bent frame, false bottom, or one with the remnants of a Happy Meal on the child seat.

As a motorcyclist, the chrome handle of the cart reminds my of a motorcycle handlebars and oftentimes I find myself twisting the right side for acceleration, leaning into turns and looking for the clutch lever on the left.

Many years ago, I had a similar problem while learning how to ride a horse. I was constantly searching with my left foot on the saddle for the shift lever, while pressing down on the right side of the saddle searching for the brake, all the while irritating the rental horse. Maybe that?s why he fell down, on purpose.

After years of personal observation, it is now quite obvious that people drive their grocery carts the same way they drive their cars in the parking lot. Some barrel down the wrong side, break for hallucinations, and try to cram a Humvee into a Hyundai parking space, and the worse, stopping traffic and staring off into space for no apparent reason.

When we "hacer compras", I am convinced I know what we need and like to hit it and quit it fast and furious. This is consistent with my motorcycling philosophy of riding it like they are trying to repossess my bike.

My wife, however, is more measured and analytical. She takes the time to read labels and actually compares prices. She buys what we need, not what we want. A word of actuation: never go shopping while hungry. You may end up buying a cart full of those cheap fruit pies they sell sometimes 5 for a dollar, 50 for a ten spot. I no longer go shopping by myself without a specific non-negotiable list.

It would seem natural that folks would cart down the right side, go with the flow of traffic, and signal when the intend to make a turn.

They don?t.

Cart double parking is a typical misdeed, although it's not wise to comment about it if the offending cart is filled with malt liquor and turkey jerky.

I like to cart fast and occasionally power slide around the linoleum floor. I have yet found a way to mash a burn out, or swing a 360, without doing a head plant into the fresh produce section.

My Dad, a seasoned cart pilot, did slip on a grape once and found himself almost lying under the cart like an auto mechanic. No one was really injured except my brother who almost laughed himself into hyperventilating convolutions.

Usually, people are civil and courteous while shopping, but I have no doubt that when they pass they sneak a glance as to what you are buying. I certainly do. People buy the strangest combination of things, like six bags of cat litter, a light bulb, a case of Beanie Weenie, and rhubarb.

Much to my "esposa's" dismay, I am compelled to comment occasionally on other's particularly eccentric purchases. We have worked this out into a science, and limit comments to thing like: "I didn?t know that duck tongues could be bought in bulk!"

There are Latinos who are embarrassed to buy tortillas, tripas, or chicharones. They fear that the checkout clerk will discover they're Latino.


Your photocopied bounced check taped to the register already gave you up.

Heaven forbid if you buy the canned menudo, and the check out person happens to be Latino. Somehow, somewhere, someday, it will come back to you. I have a theory that in whichever community you live, all Latinos are related and anything you do that is publicly embarrassing will get back to your Mom.

Why do I always get in the wrong checkout line? It always seems that we get in the line behind the person who wants to write a check for gum. A word to the wise: If you ever see me at a supermarket and I get in a line, always get in the other line. It may free up several hundred weeks of your life.

They have been test marketing putting video screens on the shopping carts of the future.

If they do, then air bags can't be far behind.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos frequents Costco.

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